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Management and leadership are often considered two interchangeable terms, and similarly, tend to be grouped together given the overlap of responsibilities.

While it’s true that management and leadership tend to go hand-in-hand, you’d be mistaken to assume that they are one in the same. They are, in fact, two diverse vocations, each of which requires a specific set of skills to produce optimal results. Here we discuss the differences and similarities.

What is Management?

Management is described ‘as a set of activities directed at the efficient and effective utilisation of the act of getting things done with others supporting the basic activities’, according to Management Study HQ. In other words, a manager is someone who:

  • Plans projects
  • Organises team structure
  • Delegates workload
  • Controls resources
  • Provides feedback on set tasks

Now, discussing what a manager does is one thing, but good managers are described as those who hold a specific set of skills in conjunction with their daily tasks so they can execute projects successfully. These skills include:

  • Good communication
  • Ability to adapt
  • Organisation
  • Discipline
  • Attention to detail
  • Project management
  • Goal setting

When it comes to managing teams, there’s plenty of opportunity for things to go askew, and this is where being able to adapt and execute strategic management skills is essential for any manager.

When challenging circumstances arise, direct reports will often turn to their managers for support and direction, which in turn, requires management to stay composed under pressure and work on providing solutions accordingly. Leaders, on the other hand, often don’t feel this same sense of responsibility as their managers, as they don’t typically have individuals reporting directly to them.

All in all, having a strong understanding of key management knowledge allows managers to suitably direct the individuals and teams they oversee, guiding them to achieve targets and other organisational aims with a high level of skill that isn’t necessarily found in leadership roles alone.

What is Leadership?

McKinsey & Company describe leadership as ‘a set of behaviours used to help people align their collective direction, to execute strategic plans, and to continually renew an organisation’.

Now unlike management, being a leader doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the senior head of a team, in fact, many organisational leaders are simply part of the team, adding value wherever they can and taking charge when it’s appropriate.

This means, unsurprisingly, that effective leadership requires a varied set of skills compared to management. Leaders, for example, are often the thought provokers in an industry or organisation, and are focused more on concepts, such as:

  • Inspiring new ideas throughout organisation
  • Motivating through times of company change or uncertainty
  • Problem-solving when presented with challenges and barriers
  • Creative thinking when building strategies
  • Influencing new ways of working and trends

Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Sciences, Grace Lordan believes that the best kind of leaders aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo and are usually quite happy to take risks.

In conjunction, good leaders have solid problem-solving skills because of the flexibility of their nature. When you take risks, problems can and do often arise, and simply put leaders need to know how to solve them.

Good leaders see problems as opportunities and are often able to break down barriers that may stand in the way of their teams meeting their goals or objectives. Managers, however, are much less likely to take risks as their job description implies following the rules that are conveyed by C-suite professionals.

Leadership vs Management: The Differences and Similarities

Looking at the two holistically, it’s clear that while they overlap, management and leadership are two different concepts.

While both roles require interpersonal skills, technical knowledge, supervisory abilities, and fast decision-making skills, it’s important to remember that management is there to impose guidelines for work and standards for behaviour, while leaders have a more practical role in shaping company culture and professional development in individuals and teams. 

Leaders set the vision, think the big ideas and inspire people. Managers follow through with said vision, execute the big ideas accordingly, and drive the success of their teams. Leaders are future-oriented, whereas managers can focus on the now and are able to think proactively on their feet.

Accordingly, it should come as no surprise that the two can and should come together. In fact, the leadership style of individual managers accounts for a shocking 70% of employee engagement in the workplace, proving that the best managers are those seen as great leaders.

Improving your Management & Leadership skills

Becoming a good manager – or leader – requires a certain level of drive, and a high level of strategic knowledge and skills that you can’t always find on the job.

That’s why upskilling is incredibly valuable when it comes to utilising and building on your leadership or management skills.

The Chartered Management Institute (CMI), in particular, have over 60 years of experience in developing great leaders and managers of professional environments and pride themselves on business excellence – making their CMI Level 5 and Level 7 qualifications the ideal choice if you’re looking to elevate your leadership career.

Highly sought-after by employers, CMI qualifications will help you excel in mid to senior leadership roles, and even put you on the path towards becoming a Chartered Manager – an accolade that can only be awarded by the CMI.

Whether you’re a manager, a leader or both, it’s important to remember that you’re a person who people look up to in your organisation, and as such, it’s vital to understand the nuances between management and leadership, and how to combine the two to optimise both personal and professional success. 


Develop your management and leadership skills with a 100% online CMI qualification and gain your Charted Management status today.